(Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Tuesday’s “Riverdale,” which is The CW show’s 100th episode and the end of its five-episode “Rivervale” event.)
After five weeks of build up, “Riverdale” fans finally got the answers to all the questions they’ve been asking about Rivervale — the mysterious town we’ve been following throughout the start of Season 6, as The CW show fully abandoned Archie and the gang for the versions of those characters that live in this alternate universe — through Tuesday’s episode, which also happened to be the drama’s 100th.
The person who solved the Riverdale-Rivervale mystery was, of course, Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), who has always been “Riverdale’s” voiceover narrator, but turned into the actual in-universe guide for the “Rivervale” episodes. Only it wasn’t Narrator Jughead who solved it, but Rivervale Jughead, who aren’t actually the same person, but do meet up by the end of the episode to sort things out together. And neither of them is “Riverdale” Jughead, that we know for certain. And none of those three are the platonic ideal of Jughead that lives with the other Archie comics characters in a bright, beautiful Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe in the sky.
Yeah, Tuesday’s episode of “Riverdale,” titled “The Jughead Paradox” had a lot of Jugheads to keep up with, plus the return of several old “Riverdale” characters and many, many callbacks made to the first five seasons of the show — like a brief makeout session between the Rivervale versions of Jughead and Betty (Lili Reinhart) that’s sure to make Bughead fans lose it.
All of this ends up being explained by the fact that Rivervale and Riverdale are two parallel universes, which Rivervale Jughead learns while exploring the “Riverdale” comics that suddenly appear in his apartment and end with five installments of “Rivervale.” And Narrator Jughead and Rivervale Jughead work it out so that neither universe will collapse, so long as Rivervale Jughead goes into seclusion and continues to write storylines for the Rivervale gang, with Narrator Jughead taking his place in the group.
It actually works, and in the final moments of the episode we find ourselves back in real Riverdale, at the exact moment where Season 5 ended with Archie (K.J. Apa) and Betty about to be blown to bits by a bomb placed under their bed by Veronica’s (Camila Mendes) banished father, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos). Only this time, Betty gets an anonymous call telling her and Archie about the bomb and they manage to get out before it goes off, though the blast is heard by Jughead (the proper Riverdale one!) in the garage.
Then we cut to black and have to wait until March to find out what happens next on “Riverdale.”
Here to explain everything for TheWrap is Sprouse, who did a fine job of unraveling the intricacies of the hour, written by creator and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, considering Sprouse did not know any of the plot until two days before “Riverdale’s” 100th episode began filming.
“That’s not a joke. That’s totally real,” Sprouse said, with a laugh. “We had discussed it about two days before.”
Read our full Q&A with Sprouse about the 100th episode of “Riverdale” below.
TheWrap: So you didn’t know about the twist in Jughead’s “Rivervale” storyline and how it all connected to real Riverdale before you began filming, even though you had to create two different Jugheads for those first five episodes without really knowing why?
Cole Sprouse: No, not so much. But I would be lying to you if I said this was not something I was pretty used to at this point. You know, we all are running at basically full speed throughout the years. Also, I think Roberto, because he wrote this episode, specifically, really, really wanted to make sure it was perfect. And [it] really ended up being the love letter that it ended up being. So I understand. We had had like kind of brief discussions, but in the earlier part of the five-episode special, whenever “Rivervale’s” narrator, Jughead as the narrator, would come on screen, for each director, I would give three different versions, because I figured the lineage would be stitched together in post. And so I would just end up giving three different versions. And then we ended up with a character towards the end of it. But it was usually the safest option.
How complicated did the episode get to understand and film, with the number of Jugheads and the parallel universes and the way to save everyone from them collapsing?
I think to us, on the ground, it wasn’t too confusing. I had talked to Roberto and our director, Gabe, and the creative team about what we wanted the distinction of Narrator Jughead and Rivervale’s Jughead to look like. And I admittedly have not seen the episode, I don’t normally watch myself, but I’m hoping that a lot of the comedy that we used for Narrator Jughead came through in distinction to the sort of moody adult/teen that we’ve known Jughead to be throughout the last six seasons. So I think when we were playing those distinctions, it was pretty clear. We changed the makeup a bit, we changed the hair a bit for the narrator. Obviously, wardrobe was distinct. And I think the sheer fact that we were able to speak directly into the fourth wall helped out quite a bit, too. But I’m interested to see the way that all those different lineages sort of tie together.
The moment where Jughead and Betty are attempting to re-create the makeout session that Archie and Betty had on his bed with the bomb ticking under it in hopes that will somehow eliminate Rivervale and save Riverdale is definitely going to excite “Riverdale” fans who have been hoping those two will get back together for some time. But because this intimate scene takes place in an alternate universe, should we take that as any sign that the real Betty and Jughead might have a future?
I think it’s dangerous to look at the five-episode special as any indication of something that exists within the normal season. So I’ll say that outright. I also think that Episode 100 does a really great job establishing itself as a love letter to the audience that has stuck with us. And a large part of that audience was a part that became fanatical and absolutely loved Betty and Jughead as a couple for four seasons. So I think it’s a really awesome moment. I think that the audience is going to be really excited to see a lot of the old ideas and storylines that we used throughout the years get integrated in some great or small way into this one 100th episode. But as it stands, that episode sort of is the final chapter of this of this ‘Rivervale’ special, and it doesn’t seem like it has too much overlap — at this point in [shooting] Season 6, at least — with the rest of the season.
The episode saw the return of several deceased or otherwise characters, including Ross Butler, who played Reggie in the first season of “Riverdale,” who came back to once again play Reggie in this alternate universe where Charles Melton is still playing Reggie, too. We also got flashbacks to Fred Andrews (played by the late Luke Perry), whom we find out Archie is trying to keep everyone in Rivervale for, because he has found that people who die here return to life and he wants his father back. What did you make of the craziness of things like the two Reggies, juxtaposed to the emotional tribute to Fred?
For the Fred Andrews and multiple Reggies, it’s all just a really fun way to involve the fans and where we came from and to talk about some of the pain and some of the truths. And I just think this episode does a really, really good job showing what the world of ‘Riverdale’ has been and is in a meta sense and both an interior sense of the actual show itself. This show, consistently, throughout the last six seasons, is asking the audience to suspend their disbelief for all the wild things that go on. And I think this episode does a nice job of, in a tongue-in-cheek way, going, ‘Hey, this is the reason why.’ I think for the emotional stuff, at least for the fight scene with Archie and Jughead, kudos to KJ, a lot of the emotional heavy lifting is on him for that. But I also think it’s — a well-written villain with an incredible justification is like the currency of a good villain. So I thought that was really well-written. I’m just excited for people to see it. You know I feel thankful that Jughead became kind of the cipher through which we’re able to show this story and to build this world. And I think him, as a narrator, had this, even from Season 1, we’d established that he had this direct conversation to an audience. And so he was in the sort of prime position in order to have this content discussed.
In this episode, you get to put your iconic beanie from the first few seasons back on for a scene where Jughead sees the old high school version of himself. You also get to put that traditional Jughead crown from the Archie comics on for a scene where Jughead goes up to a heaven-like Pop’s in the sky, where he sees all the comic versions of his friends and reads their many, many stories in comic form before returning to Rivervale. What was it like for you to resume these other versions of Jughead you had played before?
In Season 1, Roberto and I were just talking about the show and I had always called the Archie characters like a theater troupe. You know, it’s all these characters, and even in the digests, were being dragged and dropped into various different circumstances and seeing how our personality types interacted with these circumstances. And I see ‘Riverdale’ as no different. I think the Archie comic characters and the world is really open ended. And so it allows this theater troupe of a cast to sort of be dropped into anything. And ‘Riverdale’ is the same way. In my opinion, at least the way that I play it, is that the real Jughead, the honest-to-God Jughead, is the one that exists in that Pop’s. That is Jughead. The Jughead that you see in Riverdale, or even the Narrator, those are different Jugheads. Narrator Jughead is, probably, in my opinion, way closer to the actual Jughead than the “Riverdale” Jughead, the sort of moody version. But the show has always been and the cast of the Archie comics has always been a bunch of little actors being dragged and dropped in various insane circumstances. So I want people to see that sweet hereafter Pop’s and go, “Oh, that’s really the characters, right there. They’re just donning their new outfits and leaving Pop’s and going to whatever new circumstance they have to go through.” And it just so happens that the one “Rivervale’s” narrator and Jughead have to go to a sort of grimier universe than a lot of the ones that have the cast sitting at Pop’s has had to go through.
So what can you tease for us about where “Riverdale” goes when it comes back with new episodes in the spring?
If I’m being completely upfront with you, I have no idea. I’m not going to lie. I wish I could sit here and spoil a little something or other, but I actually don’t know. I talked to Roberto a little bit about if ‘Rivervale’ was going to eventually come back into Riverdale and if he told me the same thing that he probably told you guys. But I actually don’t know too much, otherwise I would spill the beans.
Do you think there is a chance that somehow Rivervale Jughead was the one who reached out to Betty to warn her about the bomb? Or do you have another theory about who changed the timeline of events in Riverdale?
Rivervale, it doesn’t cease to exist, it still exists in a different time. But my understanding was that, the same way Rivervale is being controlled by a Jughead in front of a typewriter, my understanding is the same is true for Riverdale, and that those universes are not so distinct. They’re not mirror images of each other, like we mentioned in the program, but they’re sort of a warped reflection. And I think if we end up seeing that narrative come back, that would be awesome. But for the meantime, the thing that helps me get to sleep at night is the fact that we’re all just a little theater troupe.
The sixth season of “Riverdale” will premiere Sunday, March 6 on The CW.